Action Figure #1 by Richard Marcej

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Action Figure #1
By Richard Marcej
Baboon Books

Richard MarzelakAs a former creative writing major, I can personally recount a million and one horrors of that old axiom, ‘write what you know.’ The result is, inevitably, countless stories of writers writing about writing, like the infinite songs in the world about trying to find the perfect words and tune, and all of those tales of struggling artists, retold time and again.

Richard Marcej writes about what he knows, and what he seems to know better than anything else, is the life of a struggling cartoonist.

Action Figure, coincidentally, is the story of a struggling cartoonist. A struggling cartoon named Richard Marzelak, who loathes his job at the ‘World’s Largest Toy and Greeting Card Company,’ Hasmark (‘Real’ Richard, we discover, via Action Figure’s inside front cover, worked for the strangely similar-sounding greeting card company, Hallmark). It gets even stranger: cartoon Richard is hoping to be offered a job working on the account for the popular Japanese toyline, Bot-Changers, whilst the ‘real’ Richard worked on the account for the popular Japanese toy line, Tranformers.

The bulk of the action of Action Figure follows Marzelak around, as he struggles through a job he loathes, showing up late to work on a regular basis, after staying up all night, working on his strip. His day is periodically speckled with daydreams, involving the violent death of his boss, and romance with the office sexpot, illustrated through the clever use of the color red, the only color used in the otherwise black and white book, saturating only these sequences, ala Sin City, or, if it’s not too awkward a comparison, Schindler’s List.

The storyline glides along nicely. Marcej does a fine job of introducing characters and conflict, and his art, while relatively simplistic, does a fine job of helping to advance the plot—unfortunately, characters are introduced and then forgotten, one assumes to be fleshed out in later episodes. Connection with any characters in Action Figure beyond Marzelak’s own is not yet an option.

The true beauty of Action Figure is in the setup, which is sadly abandoned early on in the issue. In a style wholly reminiscent of Dave Berg’s The Lighter Side (how often do you see that, kids?), Marzelak tells the story of an estate sale, following his death in 2053 (at which point, the artist will have been well into his 90s, happily). Marzelak, naturally, has since become a famous artist, and vulture-like collectors are rifling through his worldly belongings, one couple ultimately stumbling upon a collection of his journals. It’s through these found journals that his tale unfolds. It’s a clever setup, which one hopes will ultimately expanded upon, in subsequent issues.

In the meantime, we’re stuck waiting on issue two, of a series with a good deal of promise so long as Marzelak (both of them), demonstrate that they’re willing to follow through. After all, writing what you know is a perfectly acceptable method of story-telling, so long as you can guarantee that others will want to know it as well.

–Brian Heater

No Comments to “Action Figure #1 by Richard Marcej”

  1. Rich Yan | March 1st, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I read this book. You get everything right except the artist’s name is Rich Marcej. His alter ego is named “Marzelak”.